There are two things that will make me binge an anime in a single day or less: 1) it’s short, or 2) it’s really good. And sometimes, I’ll find an anime that falls into both categories and I’ll finish it even faster than I normally would. If I’m lucky, it will also fall into a third category: anime that takes time to digest. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (AnoHana, We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day; あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない。) is one of those rare anime that fits all three of those categories. Spoilers ahead.
The anime makes one thing clear very early so I’m just going to come out and say it: the character in the picture above with white hair (“Menma” Meiko Honma) is already dead when this show starts. She was killed tragically as a young child, and as a result, a once close-knit group of friends quickly drifts apart. Many years later, summer rolls around and Menma suddenly appears before “Jin-tan” Jinta Yadomi, the old leader of the gang. The problem is, he’s the only one that can see her, and spends a lot of time thinking she’s just an illusion brought on by regret. Turns out, he’s wrong.
Menma is around because she has an unfulfilled promise that is keeping her spirit from moving on in life. Unfortunately, she can’t remember what it is, she only knows the entire group has to be involved. What follows is a painful and long road for Jin-tan as he has to face friends he hasn’t been involved with for years to try to convince them that the spirit of their dead friend needs their help.
This show deals with loss in a very raw fashion, presenting things that, on the surface, seem a bit extreme, but in reality are very real and possible outcomes when there is a tragedy like the death of a young child. One of the friends has taken to habitually dressing up as Menma and pretending she is still alive in an effort to maintain the connection they once had. Menma’s mother is stuck in the past, almost completely ignoring her second child because she’s unable to move on. She grew to hate Menma’s childhood friends; why was her daughter the only one who had to die? Another friend is eager to believe anything he’s told about Menma’s return because, as an eye witness, he feels directly responsible for her death and thinks he’s unworthy of forgiveness. Another friend regrets all the things he planned to say tomorrow. Unraveling the years of guilt and depression in each person’s life proves to be both challenging and heartbreaking.
Through lots of trial and error, Menma’s wish is finally fulfiflled, and I can honestly say this is one of the more poignant endings I’ve seen in an anime. Their healing complete, they are able to say their final goodbye to their childhood friend in perfect fashion. Truly one of the best feelings of closure I’ve ever experienced.
This show reminded me that life is fleeting and fragile. Even the lives of children that are just barely getting started can be quickly taken away, leaving all those who are left wondering why. Time is precious and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. It’s cliche to say those things, but it becomes all too real when you’re faced with these kinds of things personally. Anohaha: The Flower We Saw That Day is a good reminder that you should never wait to let those close to you know how important they are in your life; don’t wait to give that compliment/apology; live boldy, facing life head-on, because you never know what will happen tomorrow.